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Opportunity for commercial and industrial integration

CUBA, November 4, 2009. The 27th Havana Trade Fair (FIHAV 2009), which runs from November 2 to 7, is proving that Cuba will continue to be an attractive market for foreign businesses, despite the current international crisis and restrictions imposed by the blockade that the United States has maintained against the island for 50 years.

This event, the largest trade fair in Cuba — where each country exhibits its most representative consumer goods, equipment, machines, technology, raw materials and services — has demonstrated growing interest by the business world in trading with Cuba, with the participation of 652 exhibitors from 54 nations.

As in previous years, Spain is the country with the largest presence, followed by Canada, China, Russia and Venezuela. This time, Costa Rica made its debut with an official delegation and Sri Lanka is attending for the first time.

Fewer U.S. businesspeople and companies are participating in this year’s fair due to obstacles that Washington has imposed, with unjust measures affecting trade relations with Cuba.

A larger number of Cuban companies are part of the fair, mostly from the health and food sectors.

The director of the Cuban pavilion, Frank Richard, said that in addition to growing prestige for nationally-made products, this year’s fair also featured innovations in the designs of its stands.

The FIHAV 2009 also features business meetings, forums and roundtables between Cuba and China, Venezuela, South Africa, Germany, Iran and Russia. Cuba also has signed a number of agreements to strengthen its trade relations with several nations, including its inter-ministerial agreement with Italy and a plan of action with China for the years 2010 and 2011.

While touring the fairgrounds, Minister of Government Ricardo Cabrisas praised the presence of exhibiting companies and countries, and particularly those that are offering products and equipment in tune with humanity’s urgent needs, such as those for rational energy consumption and the development of nanotechnology. The fair is a good opportunity for commercial and industrial integration, Cabrisas affirmed.

On the opening day, Cuban Minister of Trade and Foreign Investment Rodrigo Malmierca addressed more than 1,000 businesspeople who participated in one of the most prestigious business meetings in Latin America, saying that over the last 27 years, the Havana Trade Fair has contributed modestly but significantly to the development of foreign trade and other mutually beneficial business between Cuban and foreign companies.

Malmierca referred to the impact on Cuba of the international recession, the accumulation of significant damages as a result of climate change, and the U.S. economic siege, the latter of which was rejected for the 18th consecutive time and almost unanimously by the international community in the recent UN General Assembly vote.

As a result of all of those negative factors, the Cuban economic situation is currently facing obstacles in accessing international financing, reduced demand, and higher costs for priority imports such as food, the minister said.

At the close of the third quarter in 2009, the figures showed that Cuba’s trade had shrunk by 36% compared to the same period in the previous year, with imports comprising almost 80% of the total, he said.

Even so, he affirmed, Cuba continues to find trade partners, mostly in the sector of goods, propitiating an estimated $10 billion in trade. The American continent stands out as Cuba’s largest client, with 51%, followed by Europe, with 24% and then Asia and the Middle East, with 21%.

Venezuela, China, Russia, Spain and Brazil were Cuba’s top trading partners, out of the 170 countries with which Cuba has trade relations, Malmierca noted.

The minister highlighted the growing role of services in the Cuban economy, manifested in its increasingly growing influence in exports, and becoming consolidated as the island’s greatest source of hard currency.

Even though the complexity of the current situation has obliged Cuba to adopt diverse restrictive measures — including delayed payments to suppliers — these are temporary, Malmierca stated. The Cuban authorities have the greatest disposition to dialogue with their economic partners, and the country will continue to be a trustworthy market that keeps its promises, he asserted.

The official noted that businesses with foreign capital that operate in Cuba at this time are concentrated in the tourism, oil and derivatives, mining, manufacturing and communications industries. However, he emphasized, the government is immersed in negotiations for dozens of new projects oriented toward other branches of the economy, with companies from countries such as Brazil, Spain, Venezuela, China, Vietnam, Angola and Russia.

Trade practices based on collaboration and integration decisive in today’s world, Malmierca said. In that respect, he highlighted Cuba’s participation in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America bloc, and said that despite the difficulties, the Caribbean nation is exemplary in its international solidarity in collaboration with other peoples of the world.

More than 50,000 Cuban international cooperation workers provide their services in 103 countries, in activities such health, education, culture, sports and agriculture, he added. (Cubaminrex- Granma Internacional)

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